As a “shell-shocked” Ger Cunningham attempted to make sense of a 22-point Dublin mauling, his Tipperary counterpart Michael Ryan purred with satisfaction, having noticed “glimpses” of what his All-Ireland champions are capable of.
All-Ireland SHC qualifier
TIPPERARY ........ 6-26
Confirmation of Cunningham’s exit following a three-year term, which has been a troubled one at times, is expected in the coming days, if not before. He opted not to go with a spare man at the back, deciding to attack Tipperary, but his charges were filleted.
They had their good moments, though, particularly in the first half when Cian O’Sullivan cut through for a goal, while they could have had at least one more. And Cunningham was right in his post-match assertion that much of the damage was self-inflicted.
Even a defender rated as one of the best in the country in his position, full-back Eoghan O’Donnell, suffered badly, as Seamus Callanan ran riot. It was unfortunate for Dublin that Callanan, John McGrath, and the irrepressible John ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer picked Saturday to rekindle some of their best form. By game’s end, Callanan had 3-11, including 3-4 from play, John McGrath had 2-2, and O’Dwyer 0-4.
In last September’s All-Ireland final victory over Kilkenny, they combined for 2-21. This time, it was 3-17.
Reports of Tipp’s demise have been wildly exaggerated, it seems, and that below-par display against Westmeath a week previously can now be viewed in its proper context. The point is, however, that Westmeath were well-set-up, crowding midfield and stemming the flow of ball to the aforementioned deadly trio. Dublin, in contrast, didn’t apply the requisite pressure on the champions.
The writing was on the wall early, as Callanan had 1-3 posted inside eight minutes.
He scooted away from O’Donnell for an eighth-minute goal and while Cian O’Sullivan’s 15th-minute effort had Dublin level at 1-4 each, that was as good as it got for the visitors.
The failure to deal with a booming Pádraic Maher delivery in the 19th minute allowed John McGrath to find the net and Dublin were architects of their own downfall, again, three minutes later.
Callanan’s thundering hit turned over Shane Barrett and the pass to McGrath was sublime. There was still work to do but McGrath lifted the sliotar gently over the head of Conor Dooley and into the net.
Goal number four originated from a poor restart and after Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher had made inroads, Callanan swept the ball home from a tight angle.
Game over as Dublin trailed by 1-10 to 4-11 at the break.
Cunningham said: “We were contemplating shoring it up for the first ten minutes of the second half but we felt that wasn’t the message to give, we felt we had to attack and try to get back into the game. Within 30 seconds, there was a goal gone in. The game was done and dusted and they played exhibition hurling for the second half.”
With 19 seconds on the watch, Mikey Breen had Tipp’s fifth goal before O’Dwyer, who could have gone himself, set up Callanan for his hat-trick in the final minute. David Treacy kept the flag, and white flags, flying for Dublin but he was curiously whipped off late on. It didn’t matter to the end result, of course, and Cunningham appeared to accept what’s coming next.
“My term is up, it’s time now just to chat in relation to the game, how it panned out,” he said. “We hadn’t expected that in any shape or form. I’m still kind of shell-shocked, we’ll reflect on that and see where we go.”
Ryan, meanwhile, was satisfied with his charges. “We came here to win — the scoreline, to be honest with you, it might flatter us and it’s certainly not something we’re thinking about,” he said.
“We just came to get a performance out of ourselves but ultimately, we came here to go through, no more, no less, whether we struggled over by a point, or a victory as we saw out there. It really wouldn’t have mattered — what was really at stake here was to go forward into the last six. We’ve secured that and we’re happy with that.”
Scorers for Tipperary:
S Callanan 3-11 (0-7f), J McGrath 2-2, M Breen 1-0, J Forde & John O’Dwyer 0-4 each, S O’Brien 0-2, Pádraic Maher, B Maher & D McCormack 0-1 each.
Scorers for Dublin:
D Treacy 0-11 (8f), C O’Sullivan 1-1, L Rushe & R O’Dwyer 0-2 each, C Crummey, D O’Callaghan & R McBride 0-1 each.
D Gleeson; D Maher, T Hamill, J Barry; Joe O’Dwyer, R Maher, Pádraic Maher; B Maher, M Breen; J Forde, Patrick Maher, D McCormack; John O’Dwyer, S Callanan, J McGrath.
S Kennedy for R Maher (45), N McGrath for B Maher (49), S O’Brien for D McCormack (49), M Cahill for D Maher (56), T Fox for Pádraic Maher (66).
C Cooley; C O’Callaghan, E O’Donnell, F Ó Riain Broin; S Barrett, C Crummey, S Moran; B Quinn, N McMorrow; D Treacy, L Rushe, E Dillon; C O’Sullivan, R O’Dwyer, D Burke.
J Madden for Barrett (24), F Whitely for McMorrow (ht), D O’Callaghan for Burke (ht), T Connolly for Moran (50), R McBride for Treacy (58).
A Kelly (Galway)
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